The vilification of cryptocurrencies by big names in finance is becoming an annual tradition at CNBC’s Delivering Alpha conference. Last year, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon spoke at the investor gathering and called bitcoin a “fraud.” (He recanted a few weeks later.) This year, Citadel founder and CEO Kenneth Griffin took up the mantle as crypto critic-in-chief.
The hedge fund billionaire, interviewed on stage by business journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin in the ballroom of New York’s Pierre Hotel, stuck by his past description of cryptocurrencies as digital tulips. And when Sorkin asked Griffin what he says to the Citadel portfolio managers who are surely pressuring him to put money in crypto, Griffin quickly corrected him.
“I don’t have a single portfolio manager who has told me we should buy crypto,” he said. “There’s no need for cryptocurrencies. They’re a solution in search of a problem.”
Griffin, whose hedge fund has more than $30 billion in assets under management, has debated whether or not to make markets for other investors trading cryptocurrencies, through Citadel Securities, a separate market-making business he also founded. But even here he is hesitant, saying he has “a hard time thinking about” supporting a product he doesn’t believe in.